Press Notice 10, Session 2006-07

24 January 2007

PASC announces inquiry into “Third Sector” public services

The Public Administration Committee today launches its inquiry into the growing trend toward Government buying or commissioning services from the “third sector”:  charity or voluntary organisations and NGOs that do not fall into the traditional public or private sectors.  The Committee is calling for interested organisations and individuals to submit evidence to the inquiry.

Since 1997 Government has increasingly emphasised the role of the third sector in helping to develop and deliver better public services, as part of the wider policy agenda of increasing competition and choice in public services. This is a key part of the role of the new Office of the Third Sector, established in May 2006 and reporting to Ed Miliband.

In some cases third sector organisations may be better able to provide a service or to innovate, or to involve groups which are traditionally difficult to reach. Conversely, critics suggest that the third sector’s independence could be compromised by becoming Government contractors and there are questions about how these “contracted-out” providers of public services can be held accountable.

The Committee’s inquiry seeks to explore the costs and benefits of the government’s policy - which may be different for the state, the third sector, and for those that use the public services - and to judge the effectiveness of the government’s approach.

Committee chairman Tony Wright MP said:

“More and more of our traditional state services are now being performed in the voluntary sector. There are real issues that need discussion here, and the time seems right for this committee to look into it. It’s an exciting new area for us as a committee, and I hope to hear from all kinds of groups and organisations we don’t usually hear from.”

For full terms of reference and a fuller explanation of the issues and questions that the Committee would like addressed in evidence, please go to the Committee’s website:  


The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. Its terms of reference are to examine the reports of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, and to consider matters relating to the quality and standards of administration provided by Civil Service departments, and other matters relating to the Civil Service. The Membership of the Committee is as follows:

Tony Wright (Chairman) (Lab) (Cannock Chase), Mr David Burrowes (Con) (Enfield, Southgate), Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West), David Heyes (Lab) (Ashton under Lyne), Kelvin Hopkins (Lab) (Luton North), Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con) (Bridgewater), Julie Morgan (Lab) (Cardiff North), Mr Gordon Prentice (Lab) (Pendle), Paul Rowen (Lib Dem) (Rochdale), Grant Shapps (Con) (Welwyn Hatfield), Jenny Willott (Lib Dem) (Cardiff Central)

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